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Laid Off During the COVID-19 Crisis

What a difference a year makes! Around this time last year, I was excited and ready to start a new job at a hospitality startup, Sonder, to combine my love for travel with my business skills. Get paid to live, breathe, and think about travel and hospitality all day – what a dream come true!

One year later, things are drastically different as COVID-19 has more or less obliterated the travel industry. The virus has caused every travel-related business and other industries to come to a standstill as the world goes into lockdown and everyone is ordered by their governments to stay at home.

Not surprisingly, Sonder was highly affected as cancellations skyrocketed and no new bookings came in. A few weeks ago during shelter-in-place, I awoke one morning to a nondescript calendar invite, titled “discussion,” for a video conference call with my manager and his manager. I knew immediately what this meant. I was getting laid off. It wasn’t surprising given the state of the business and all of our efforts and firedrills to protect revenue in the weeks before. Our competitors were also in the news as they announced layoffs and furloughs. Even the big hotel chains like Marriott were not spared.

Nevertheless, even though I knew what the conversation meant and rationally knew it was coming, there’s still a part of me that was in shock (borderline panic) and thoughts like “Why me? I can’t believe this is happening again” running through my mind. Not going to lie, getting laid off also hurt my pride because there’s still a teeny tiny part of me that wonders what I did wrong.

Now, this isn’t my first time being laid off. I went through the same thing two years ago at Google (see my first post Eat, Pray, Slay!). Yet this is definitely not something that gets better or easier each time it happens. This time, however, things are more uncertain with the pandemic causing economies to enter a self-imposed recession. Even if I wanted to, I don’t have the luxury to not work for a few months and gallivant around the world again.

But I do count myself privileged and lucky. When I was laid off by Sonder, I had already been actively interviewing and looking for a new job so I was much further along in the job search process than my ex-colleagues. I’m excited about my next move, which, fingers crossed, will hopefully last longer than a year. I am also fully aware that not everyone who has been laid off or furloughed during these times can work from home or find a new job as easily. So I am thankful for everything I have.

In these uncertain times, I’m trying to focus on the positive and what I can control. It’s easy to get sucked into the madness and negativity with news reports about coronavirus cases and the unemployment rate increasing week over week. I’m touched by the outpour of support from friends, family, and ex-colleagues including the people I worked with at Booking.com as a partner who sent me private personalized messages. Those who had been laid off or furloughed with me at Sonder even set up a Slack workspace to share job leads, networks, and interviewing tips with each other. It’s a reminder that community and who you surround yourself with, both physically and virtually, is important. In the spirit of giving, I would be happy to help others with their job search. I’m also trying to support local businesses as much as I can too.

Additionally, I’m looking forward to making use of this quarantine time at home to revive this blog. So much for my New Year’s Resolution last year to write one post each week. 😛 That quickly went away as I ramped up on the new job at Sonder. For me, I realized that even though I worked in hospitality for my day job, this actually left me with very little energy and brain space during my off hours to work on the blog. So here’s to hoping I can keep this up going forward now. This was not exactly how I had imagined my return but you’ve got to make the most out of what you’ve got. And with that, a one-year hiatus later, I’m back folks!

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